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TAI will upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 MLU fighters with nighttime capabilities
March 27, 2019
Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-16A Block-15 Mid-Life Update. Image credit: PAF Directorate of Media Relations

TAI will upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 MLU fighters with nighttime capabilities

The Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) fleet of 45 F-16A/B Block-15 Mid-Life Update (MLU)s will be upgraded by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) with improved nighttime capabilities, C4Defence reports.

As per C4Defence, TAI is “[optimizing] the aircraft’s cockpit for night flights.” Part of this program, TAI will install night-vision goggles. Thus far, two PAF F-16 Block-15s have been upgraded, with the work taking place in Shahbaz Air Base. In tandem with training, TAI will provide the PAF with 43 upgrade kits, enabling the PAF to carry out the upgrade in Pakistan.

Notes & Comments:

In May 2016, Pakistan and Turkey agreed to a USD $75 million contract to upgrade the PAF’s F-16s. Details regarding that upgrade were not provided at the time, but it is now evident that it was for optimizing the PAF’s F-16 MLUs for nighttime operations.

It is not clear if this is the same upgrade that was reported by Defense News, which stated that 74 fighters would be upgraded at a possible cost of USD $100 million. In August 2016, TAI’s CEO Muharram Dörtkaşlı noted that the PAF had “additional modernization requirements, especially from the structural upgrade perspective”, though he did not provide additional details. Considering the dearth of verified details, the night-vision upgrade was likely the centerpiece of the PAF F-16 upgrade program with TAI.

In June 2009, the PAF selected TAI to implement the MLU on 41 General Dynamics F-16A/B Block-15s. The upgrade began in Q4 2010 and involved the installation of the AN/APG-68(v9) radar, a new cockpit, the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), a new electronic warfare and electronic countermeasures system, and structural replenishment to guarantee that the F-16s safely reach their intended 8,000-hour service lives. The program was completed in September 2014.

TAI has been hoping to expand its business in Pakistan by securing a contract for its T-129 ATAK attack helicopter and, reportedly, its Hürkuş trainer and Anka unmanned aerial vehicle. In June 2016, TAI sent a T-129 to Pakistan for tests, which it claims were positive.